Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, sits off the mainland on an island in the Persian (Arabian) Gulf. Its focus on oil exports and commerce is reflected by the skylines modern towers and shopping mega-centers such as Abu Dhabi and Marina malls. While our main purpose in coming to Abu Dhabi is to visit the vast Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, we also visit one of the most striking architectural marvels, the Aldar Building, the world's first circular skyscraper resembling an upright coin or lens. Further, Jodi's pre-trip research led us to the Al Shader Restaurant located within the Al Mina Fish Market where we enjoy the best seafood we had ever experienced. Though not pictured, Floyd visits Ferrari World, the mostly indoors amusement park, to ride the Formula Rossa, the world's fastest rollercoaster that accelerates from 0 to 150mph, its top speed, in just 4 seconds and to ride the Flying Aces, which boasts the world's highest rollercoaster loop.
Beneath white-marble domes, the vast Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque features an immense Persian carpet, crystal chandeliers, and the capacity for 41,000 worshipers. It is a massive architectural work of art that intentionally blends different Islamic architectural schools. Featuring 82 domes, more than 1,000 columns, 24 karat gold gilded chandeliers, 4 minarets (each 106 meters tall), a main prayer hall with one of the world's largest chandeliers, and the world's largest hand knotted carpet, it is the country's largest mosque. Men are not allowed to wear shorts and women are asked to wear a traditional robe (abaya) and a head scarf before entering.
With a population of 3.4 million people, Dubai is the largest and most populous city in the UAE and is known for luxury shopping, ultra-modern architecture, and a lively nightlife scene. Due to the city being ruled under strict Muslim law, Dubai boasts virtually a 0% crime rate. In a city inhabited primarily by foreigners, people know that they can easily be imprisoned or deported for the slightest of criminal acts, making Dubai one of the safest cities on the planet. Compared to 1 skyscraper in 1991, Dubai now has over 400 and about 30,000, or 24 percent of the world's 125,000 construction cranes. With temperatures exceeding 120 degrees, vertical cooling systems are installed and use pumps to push water upwards through buildings to keep them cool, else they would quite literally begin to melt as the sun constantly beams down upon them. Dubai's apparent main goal is to constantly have the biggest and best of everything as it has the tallest building in the world, the largest indoor mall on the planet, the biggest aquarium, the tallest hotel, and the grandest indoor ski park.
The Old Souk, also known as the Dubai Spice Souk, is a traditional marketplace where goods such as spice, gold, textiles, and perfumes are bought and sold. A labyrinth of covered walkways is home to hundreds of retailers offering a huge selection of goods. In addition to the souk, we also visit the Dubai Mall, the largest shopping mall in the world based on total area. At over 12 million square feet (the equivalent in size to more than 50 soccer fields), the Dubai Mall has over 1,200 retail stores and hundreds of food and beverage outlets. It also has an ATM that dispenses 24-karat gold bars.
After visiting the Old Souk, we take a ride in an abra (water taxi) across the Dubai Creek, a saltwater creek in Dubai that extends to the Persian Gulf. Next, we visit the Dubai Frame, an architectural landmark. At 492 feet, it is the biggest picture frame in the world. On our last day in Dubai, we board a yacht for a luxury sea cruise around two of the most expensive hotels in the world, the Atlantis Palm Jumeirah and the Burj Al Arab. As of 2012, Dubai was the most expensive city in the Middle East and in 2014, its hotel rooms were rated as the second most expensive in the world. The Atlantis was the first resort to open on Dubai's manmade island, The Palm. It has 2 Underwater Suites whose bedroom and master bathroom windows look directly into the Ambassador Lagoon. Its signature Royal Bridge Suite measures 10,000 square feet and costs $27,000 per night. The Burj Al Arab, the fourth tallest hotel in the world, has over 20,000 square feet of its interior decorated in 24-karat gold leaf and its Royal Suite costs $20,000 per night.
At over 828 meters (2,716.5 feet), the Burj Khalifa is not only the world's tallest building, but is also the tallest free-standing structure in the world and has the highest number of stories in the world, the highest occupied floor in the world, the highest outdoor observation deck in the world, an elevator with the longest travel distance in the world, and the tallest service elevator in the world. With 163 stories, it is 46 stories taller than the Empire State Building. At its foot lies the Dubai Fountain. With jets and lights choreographed to music, it is the world's largest choreographed fountain.
Floyd Schleyhahn Photography www.floydandjodi.com